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Professional Virtual Communities Reflect Modern Times
Part 2 - ETNI - The Virtual Community
by Ann Shlapobersky


Established with a commitment to support and assist the development of the EFL teaching community in Israel, ETNI (English Teacher's Network in Israel) is an example of an EFL community incorporating innovative technology that expands the sense of professional teaching community among the EFL teachers and educators. Established to expose teachers and educators throughout Israel to new computer mediated communication technology as the Internet revolution began to take off in 1992, ETNI became the forerunner in promoting the use of technology in English education eventually evolving into an interactive and supportive virtual community within the English teaching community. This virtual community influenced educators not only to create authentic and interactive Internet activities, which would challenge their students to step beyond the classroom walls, provide a platform for teachers nation wide to share all types activities, but also provided a platform for all English teacher to react and interact with each other.

Like many communities, growth of ETNI and its influence on the EFL classroom has fluctuated. Starting with a small group of educators with a futuristic vision of integrating technology in all aspects of the EFL classroom, ETNI soon grew with a tremendous uncontrolled growth spurt. It swung from mass enthusiasm to little participation and few volunteers and back again; from free speech to established rules and mediation. It is a community that has redefined itself over time, making adjustments when required to sustain its independence, but also reflecting change. Palloff and Pratt (1999) stated that as in many communities, people are first drawn together for a mutual purpose and then they communicate with each other in order to figure out how to reach their common goals as the standards of behavior evolve over the course of time. ETNI has transformed from an individual's vision to group volunteer contribution to sustain overall community communication. It has influenced not only individual teachers to delve into the technology revolution, but influenced education communities such as the English Ministry, REED, Amal and ORT to establish web sites based on the needs of their own non-virtual communities. Through its discussion list, website and face-to-face meetings at ETAI conferences, ETNI has provided the EFL community within Israel a sense of community, where teachers can air their views about professional issues, receive updates information from the ministry of education, share instructional ideas as well as give and receive emotional support.

ETNI has developed a multi-dimensional sense of a virtual professional community the real necessitates of its non-virtual citizens. This influence has contributed to the development and change not only to the virtual EFL community, but also in the educators in the classroom.

Bell, C and Newby, H. (1972) Community Studies: An introduction to the sociology of the local community. New York: Praeger Publishers

Oldenburg, R. (1991) The Great Good Place: Cafes, Coffee Shops, Bookstores, Bars, Hair Salons, and Other Hangouts at the Heart of a Community, New York: Paragon House,

Palloff, R. and Pratt, K. (1999) Building Learning Communities in Cyberspace, Jossy-Bass Publishers, San Francisco, USA

Weinreich, F. (1997, February) "Establishing a Point of View Towards Virtual Communities". In Computer-Mediated Communication, 3(2) http://www.december.com/cmc/mag/1997/feb/wein.html

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